- When you meet someone and want to greet him, this is an example of a time when you might say "hey."
- When someone rudely bumps into you, this is an example of a time when you might say "hey!" to express your upset.
- used to attract attention, to express surprise, delight, puzzlement, etc., or to preface a remark
Origin of heyMiddle English hei, echoic formation akin to German and Dutch hei
- Used to attract attention or to express surprise, appreciation, wonder, or pleasure: “Oh, hey, you saw that ninety-nine-yard punt return in the Super Bowl? Wow, so did I!” ( Don Pfarrer )
- Used to express greeting.
Origin of heyMiddle English hei Word History: A word sounding like hey has been used in English since Middle English times—Middle English hei was used to call someone's attention and also to express anger, derision, or opposition. Hei could also be used to urge dogs on during the hunt and to express grief or concern—this was probably a long, drawn out hey &ellipsis4; The word probably originated simply as an imitation of the various loud, meaningless exclamations that people may utter when they are surprised or trying to attract the attention of others. Nowadays, we find the word hey used in various other ways, as for emphasis in the expression but hey. It is also used as a greeting, the short, colloquial equivalent of How are you? and thus close kin to the informal salutation hi. Hi appears to have arisen in North American English in the middle of the 1800s. However, hey seems to be replacing hi in many situations today. Until recently, the greeting hey had a distinctly Southern flavor. The national survey conducted in the 1960s by the Dictionary of American Regional English found hey as a greeting restricted chiefly to Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The friendly hey has since spread throughout the United States. Interjections sounding like hey are also used as greetings in other languages, such as Swedish hej.
- An exclamation to get attention.
- Hey, look at this!
- A protest or reprimand.
- Hey! Stop that!
- An expression of surprise.
- Hey! This is new!
- An informal greeting, similar to hi (used in the US, Australia and Canada).
- Hey! How's it going?
- A request for repetition or explanation; an expression of confusion (see also eh, huh).
- Hey? How's that?
- A meaningless beat marker or extra, filler syllable in musical lyrics.
- The chorus is "nana na na, nana na na hey hey hey, good bye"
From Middle English hey, hei, also without h- in ey, from Old English *hē, ēa (interjection), attested as first element in Old English hēlā, ēalā (“O!, alas!, oh!, lo!”). Cognate with Dutch he, hei (“hi, hey”), German hei (“hey, wow”), Danish and Swedish hej (“hello, hey”), Faroese hey (“hey, hello”), Icelandic hei (“hey”), see heigh. Probably a natural expression, as may be inferred from its presence with similar meaning in many other unrelated languages: for example, Burmese ဟေး (hei), Finnish hei, Unami hè, and Mandarin Chinese 哎 (āi), and various sound-alikes as Roman eho, Greek εἴα (eia), Latin eia, Sanskrit हे (he). See also hello.